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Perkins Award Winners Honored Tonight

Annual staff accolade for distinguished service

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Susan Tomassetti (from left), Kenneth Douglass, and Elizabeth Bouhmadouche are recipients of this year’s Perkins Awards. Photos by Kalman Zabarsky and Cydney Scott

One is being honored for his work coordinating aid to students in trouble, whether they’re suicidal, depressed, or victims of violence. Another, described as an “administrative guardian angel,” is being recognized for imposing seemingly divine order on the inherently “amorphous” University Professors Program. And the third is being cited for developing an application system for postdoctoral students that has been adopted nationwide.

These BU veterans, each with three decades of service, are the winners of the 2011 John S. Perkins Distinguished Service Awards, being presented at a ceremony today at 5 p.m. at the Metcalf Trustee Ballroom. The winners, Kenneth Douglass, senior associate director of the Office of Residential Life, Susan Tomassetti, assistant to Associate Provost Douglas Sears, and Elizabeth Bouhmadouche (MET’99), registrar and director of enrollment services at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, each will receive a plaque and a check for $500.

In addition to working with troubled students, Douglass, who leads 42 full-time staffers and 280 resident assistants, is a member of the University’s on-call team, responding to fires, medical crises, and building evacuations. His Perkins citation lauds him for turning “apparent calamities into manageable situations” and exuding compassion and confidence. He takes those traits off-campus as a volunteer with the Little Brothers—Friends of the Elderly, a nonprofit that provides companionship and meals to isolated senior citizens.

“He is understated to a fault,” one colleague writes, “never tooting his own horn. He listens as well as he speaks.”

“I see it as a team effort,” Douglass says of his work. “I am very committed to giving colleagues enough latitude or autonomy to get the their jobs done. I like working with people, and I get the satisfaction of solving organizational problems that require a high degree of skill and commitment.” As for the range of student crises he manages, “the same tenets apply for every emergency we handle. Safety is always the primary concern. By utilizing a triage care team, we get the individual the necessary help. We need to care also for the remainder of the community, who may be affected.”

Although now assistant to an associate provost, Tomassetti still manages UNI, the degree program for high-achieving BU students that’s being phased out and replaced by the University Honors College. She managed the program’s annual budget preparation, financial aid awards, faculty events and conferences, and class scheduling, among other duties.

“She was the heart and soul of the UNI program,” one Perkins nominator writes, “managing to keep order among a disparate and sometimes disorderly crew of senior faculty while also helping the students in every possible way. UNI was, by its nature, an amorphous organization, and without Susan’s superb managerial skills, resourcefulness, positive attitude, discretion, and hard work, it would very likely have dissipated entirely.”

Tomassetti says she was speechless when she received notice of her award. “Working with faculty, staff, and students has afforded me so many opportunities, not only to make their academic lives less complicated, but also to develop myriad friendships.”

In Bouhmadouche’s citation, colleagues note her behind-the-scenes indispensability at SDM: her work to ensure that the school’s convocation “is a memorable day for our graduates, her work in reporting grades and managing our bulletin, her interaction with students in collecting payment or issuing transcripts—these are all critical functions that she has mastered; they are managed so flawlessly, sometimes we may not say thank you enough for a job well done.”

Some people are overwhelmed by detail; Bouhmadouche loves it. “I want to understand the how, when, why, what, and where of the issue so that I can offer the best solution,” she says. She loves her job in part because “it has given me the wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over the world, learn about their cultures, and develop relationships with some fascinating colleagues.”

She speaks for all the winners when she says she’s unaccustomed to the publicity that the awards bring. While gratified to know that her school’s administration and faculty treasure her work, “I do have to say that the spotlight part is a little more difficult to embrace.”

The Faculty Council selects and presents the Perkins Awards based on nominations from the University faculty. Nominees must have three letters of support, which are kept so that candidates who don’t win one year may be reconsidered in the future. The awards are financed by an endowment from the late John S. Perkins, a former BU faculty member, administrator, trustee, and treasurer.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on Perkins Award Winners Honored Tonight

  • Maureen Clark on 05.03.2011 at 9:09 am

    Congratulations to all!! Well deserved recognition!!

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